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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Peers seek more apprenticeships
trainee using spirit level
The Lords say more apprenticeships will benefit the whole country
More young people who do not want to go to university should be encouraged to take up apprenticeships, a group of peers has said.

The economic affairs committee in the House of Lords has published a report criticising the apprenticeship system.

It said there were too few places and that children were not taught enough about this option at an early age.

Ministers announced on Wednesday that they were increasing the number of apprenticeships available.

The peers said boosting this area would mean higher earnings for individuals and economic benefits to the UK.

They complained there were too few apprenticeship places and that too many people left the schemes.

Just 53% of people finished their apprenticeships in the UK, compared with 75% in Germany, they said.

Ignorance and indifference

In most European countries, apprenticeship was the main route to skills for up to half of all young people and similar opportunities were desperately needed in Britain, the committee said.

Successive governments had failed to tackle the problem effectively, with numerous announcements and policy initiatives not followed up with delivery, said the report.

The peers said schools were failing to inform young people about the benefits of apprenticeships through a combination of ignorance and indifference to non-academic education.

They complained that no one government agency managed the apprenticeship system and called for a unit to be set up reporting directly to a cabinet minister.


Committee chairman Lord Wakeham said: "In Britain there is very little focus on providing effective and stimulating education for school leavers not intending to go on to university.

"Vocational training has always been undervalued but it is now more vital than ever that we get this right in what is an increasingly competitive world economy.

"Apprenticeships offer the best solution to ensuring we have a highly skilled and appropriately trained workforce. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to put apprenticeships where they belong, at the forefront of vocational education."

Skills Minister David Lammy said the government had trebled the number of apprentices since 1997 to more than a quarter of a million, and had accepted the recommendation of the Leitch review of skills, for 500,000 apprenticeships by 2020.

The completion rate had risen from 24% to 59% on the most recent figures.

"We have announced that all suitably qualified young people will have an entitlement to a high quality apprenticeship place," Mr Lammy said.

"We are working with employers to build up places available and a national clearing house to match young people to employer vacancies is now being piloted for national rollout next year."

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